High school students explore non-traditional careers

WARREN – Champion High School student Olivia Kochunas learned that she’ll have to spend a lot more time than she thought in college if she wants a career in medicine.

More than 130 Trumbull County high school students walked the halls of Kent State University at Trumbull on Friday to explore nontraditional careers in math and science during the 16th annual The Road Not Taken. The event was a partnership with Trumbull Career and Technical College.

Students selected four careers from a list of 10 fields to visit – accounting / finance, engineering, public health, architecture, chemistry, computer forensics, biotechnology, pharmacy, medicine and hospital careers.

Camille Favre, senior vice president of human resources at Seven Seventeen Credit Union, served as keynote speaker.

Kochunas, 16, said she wants to pursue a career in endocrinology in part because she has lived with diabetes since sixth grade. So she signed up for the presentation on family medicine given by Dr. Kimberly Jackson and Dr. Kristin Astrom, residents at St. Joseph Health Center.

For Kochunas, the presentation answered some important questions.

“I know what classes I have to take and what I have to do to plan,” she said.

Astrom said students interested in becoming doctors must complete four years of undergraduate studies, four years of graduate school, and three or more years in residency. Those aspiring to become specialists in a particular branch of medicine will need to add from five to nine more years of time in residency.

Magenta Palo, 16, of Newton Falls, said she wants to be a surgeon but doesn’t want to be responsible for someone dying. Astrom took some time following the presentation to address her concerns.

“It’s not something that we ever want to get used to. But it’s something that you learn to deal with,” she said.

Jackson said they were faced with several patient deaths this year that were particularly hard to handle.

“It was tough, but it comes with the job. Everything has its pluses and minuses,” she said.

Meanwhile, other students were learning whether they have a mind for engineering as they listened to Sharon Arkwright, a longtime participant in the career conference.

Arkwright said you might make a good engineer if you like math and science, enjoy building toys, puzzles and strategy games, if you’re analytical, are interested in engineering shows such as “Mythbusters,” and are creative and innovative.

After her presentation, students put their minds and hands to the test by constructing cushions for raw eggs out of straws and masking tape.

Lakeview students Darby Barnobsky and Taylor Horn were the first to complete their design, but weren’t confident it would keep their egg from breaking as they prepared to drop it from a height of 4 feet. However, after several scary drops, they were smiling with success.

“We kind of just winged it,” Horn said.

“The straw seemed to absorb most of the impact,” Barnobsky said.

Barnobsky said a career in engineering is one option she is considering and she enjoyed Arkwright’s presentation.

“It made it seem interesting. I really enjoy math,” she said.

Students from Girard are particularly interested in science and math, as the school is a big supporter of STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

Angie Cochran, Girard High School guidance counselor, said students always respond positively to the conference.

“I like that it opens windows for girls to get a look into some STEM fields (and) see some careers they didn’t know were out there,” she said.

Cochran said even if the students find out they don’t like a particular field, it still helps to steer them in the right direction. The presentations also help to show students what they would experience in their daily work.

“You take away something, no matter what. Even if it’s just to gain more respect for what these ladies have gone through to get where they are,” she said.

This year’s participating schools included Badger, Bloomfield, Bristol, Champion, Girard, Warren G. Harding, Howland, Hubbard, Kennedy, LaBrae, Lakeview, Liberty, Lordstown, Mathews, McDonald, Mineral Ridge, Newton Falls, Niles McKinley and Southington. Each year, Trumbull County students with qualifying grades in high math or science are invited to participate.

Following the conference, students fill out surveys, which committee members then consult when deciding which careers to feature the following year.